A discovery at Mayo Clinic is the first step toward new bacteria-based constipation treatment
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have discovered that genetically engineered bacteria show promise as a new treatment for constipation, after a study in mice was conducted at the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine and published in Cell Host & Microbe.
The gut microbiome, the community of bacteria found within the stomach and intestines, is unique to each person. Therefore, generic probiotics, live bacteria that can aid in digestion, don’t work for everything. Genetically engineered bacteria used in the Mayo Clinic study produced large amounts of the chemical tryptamine, which helps food pass through the intestines with potentially less risk of side effects than other constipation drugs.
People with constipation have often been advised to change their diets, but this advice hasn’t worked universally due to the fact that everyone is unique in terms of their genes and microbiome. However, the synthetic bacteria used in the study “spur transit of food through the digestive system without messing with diet and microbes.” Bacterially produced tryptamine quickly degrades in the intestine and doesn’t appear to increase in the bloodstream, thus reducing the risk of side effects outside the gastrointestinal tract. Other drugs for constipation can affect various areas of the body outside of the GI tract, including the heart. These research findings are important to the study of gastrointestinal disorders such as IBS.
“Our goal with this research is to find treatments that act only in the GI tract without creating problems in other parts of the body,” stated Dr. Purna Kashyap, lead author of the study.